How long has it been? She asked, palming the coffee cup with her beautiful slender fingers.
Three years, I smiled.
She sheepishly frowned. So long…hmm, time flies. She sips her coffee, looking outside the large window frame of the coffee house.
Three years were long enough for me, I replied in a low voice that caught on her.
She turned her head, looked straight into my eyes and asked, Do you still love me?
Taken aback and surprised at the same time, both by this unexpected question and her bluntness, I fell at a loss of words.
She nervously looked at me, then at her coffee and at me again. Making her mind to say something, but deciding on not to.Her anticipating eyes, gave courage to my words, that this time, they will not be left unrequited.
I never stopped loving you.
She looked up and I saw how her eyes shone, the flush of her heart manifesting in the redness of her face. She looked so beautiful, more beautiful than I had remembered her to be. My heart fluttered when our eyes met and I could feel my soul reaching out to hers, after being sent away years ago, not returned in the same love, that was now reflecting in her eyes.
Her soft pat on my hand brought me back to the moment, the beautiful moment that was cast into my heart as the sweetest memory of her. She pressed gently on my hand, her eyes sparkling, lips broken into her seductive shy smile.
I missed you….. she began in broken words, struggling to put it in proper words. A lot. I never thought I would, this much. But I did realize……. It was always you, I just didn’t know…… not unless I went away.
I could not believe it was happening, I was hearing the words I had so longed for. I loved her ever since she had moved next door to us with her family. We became friends in high school and our friendship lasted through college, till I proposed to her and she turned me down. We went our separate ways, after that. But now, listening to her say these words, I thought my heart would explode. It was all too good to be true. A beautiful beginning to my unrequited first love. Or so I thought, oblivious to the storm that was awaiting me.
Six months of togetherness, of being in love and happiness, I cherished every moment of us. One night, it took one night, to make me realize what I had got myself into. That night, I was supposed to leave the town for work. But the incessant rains slashed the trees on the highway and I had to make a return. Excited by the unexpected turn of events, I wanted to make it a surprise for her. I couldn’t have guessed how this surprise would run all over me, in an undaunted ugliness. When I opened the door to our house, little did I know I was opening the door to an irreversible ruin.
She was sitting on the floor, hair messed up in her face. Tired. The whole house turned inside out. The drawers half shut, clothes springing out from closets, kitchen counters ransacked, it was messed up every where my eyes went.
She looked up and smiled. Then broke into a confused laughter.
Honey, are you alright?
Never better! She scoffed and laughed.
What is the matter darling?
Give me the money! Where is the money? She screamed.
Horrified by what was transpiring before me, I slowly walked towards her.
Give me the money! I want your money! Give me it!
Getting closer I saw in the circle of her legs, a broken syringe, a few empty bottles. I could not believe my sight.
What is…. How long?… Since when? I could not get the million questions in my mind out right then!
She laughed at my shocked face. Look at your face, she said, pointing her finger at me, laughing.
I shook her, with all my strength repeating her name over and over again. I think I was trying to wake her up, wake us up, from what I imagined could only be a dream, far from reality, our worst nightmare.
You love me, she coyly teased me. In sickness and health….. you said….. you will be there for me, she stammered.You promised me in front of all those people there, that day in the church. Remember. I was dressed up all fancy and you wore the black tuxedos. You can’t take your words back….she smiled shaking her head, eyeing me like a child.
She pulled at my sleeve, in half sanity. Don’t leave me please, darling, don’t leave me. I love you.
I looked at her, into her eyes, past them, into her life, her triumphs, her smiles, her happiness, our friendship, our love, our marriage and now, what was the beginning of her ruin, our ruin.
I won’t. I promise. I love you, honey. I love you.
But I couldn’t stop crying.
Not then as I hugged her close, not after a year, as I laid her down to rest, when she could fight, no more.